Police in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, disrupted meetings and marches observing International Women's Day, detaining a speaker at a meeting and 17 trade union demonstrators.
Sources said police raided a meeting called by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights at a church in Bulawayo's Luveve suburb, detaining speaker Prisca Dube who was released two hours later.
Elsewhere in Bulawayo, police briefly detained 16 members of the local chapter of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions after they marched to observe Women’s Day. The union said the arrests came despite a court order allowing the peaceful march.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Senior Project Officer Lizwe Jamela, who represented all the detained activists, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the union members later resumed their march and gathered at Stanley Hall in thge Makokoba section of Zimbabwe's second-largest city.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe criticized the police for their actions against women and those supporting women’s rights. She told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that she is organizing a conference on anti-violence that will also focus on women.
The National Constitutional Assembly also condemned the police actions.
"Women contribute the greatest percentage of the population but sadly they remain a disadvantaged group in society economically, socially and politically," a statement issued by the civil society organization said. "They have continued to bear the brunt at the work places and in households."
The NCA said it will pursue a campaign entitled "Act Now Against Political Violence Targeting Women," naming perpetrators and helping women and communities deal with such violence through prevention and support for victims of violence.
The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa objected to what it said was continued "objectification" of women by the media, including the advertising sector.
"The images that appear in several adverts tend to portray women as physical objects that should simply be admired if not savoured," a MISA statement said.
"Such images negatively project women as having no other substantive attributes outside their physical and bodily make-up," the statement said.
In the capital, hundreds of women gathered at Harare Showground for a meeting called by the Women’s Coalition to discuss advances by women and challenges they face.
Women's Coalition Director Emelia Muchawa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that while celebrating gains made by women over the past 100 years, Zimbabweans must also take into account the obstacles to further progress.
Women’s Trust Director Precious Gombera said political violence against women remains a major problem, and women’s groups will speak as one to demand official action.
The Zimbabwe Youth Forum called for a level playing field for women in the workplace and elsewhere. Youth Forum Projects Coordinator Wellington Zindove reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the organization is challenging political leaders to take action.